Dr. Sher Blog

Official blog of Dr. Geoffrey Sher

IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction

by Dr. Geoffrey Sher on November 9, 2016

Implantation dysfunction is unfortunately often overlooked as an important cause of IVF failure. In the pursuit of optimizing outcome with IVF, the clinician has a profound responsibility to meticulously assess and address this important issue if IVF success is to be optimized. This is especially relevant in cases of “unexplained IVF failure, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) and in women suspected of having underlying anatomical and immunologic factors. Doing so will not only maximize the chance of a viable pregnancy but enhancing placentation, will at the same time promote the noble objective of optimizing the quality of life after birth.”

IVF success rates have been improving over the last decade. The average live birth rate per embryo transfer in the U.S.A for women under 40y using their own eggs , is currently better than 1:3 women. However, there is still a wide variation from program to program for IVF live birth rates, ranging from 20% to near 50%. Based upon these statistics, the majority of women undergoing IVF in the United States require two or more attempts to have a baby. IVF practitioners in the United States commonly attribute the wide dichotomy in IVF success rates to variability in expertise of the various embryology laboratories. This is far from accurate. In fact, other factors such as wide variations in patient selection and the failure to develop individualized protocols for ovarian stimulation or to address those infective, anatomical and immunologic factors that influence embryo implantation are at least equally important.

About 80% of IVF failures are due to “embryo incompetency” that is largely due to an irregular quota of chromosomes (aneuploidy) which is usually related to advancing age of the woman and is further influenced by other factors such as the protocol selected for ovarian stimulation, diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and severe male factor infertility. However in about 20% of dysfunctional cases embryo implantation is the cause of failure.

Anatomical Endo-uterine Lesions: This blog article will focus on implantation dysfunction and IVF failure due to:

  • Anatomical abnormalities in the uterine cavity (e.g. scarring, polyps and encroaching fibroid tumors)
  • A thin endometrial lining
  • Immunologic rejection of the embryos

Several studies performed both in the United States and abroad have confirmed that a dye X-Ray or hysterosalpingogram (HSG) will fail to identify small endouterine surface lesions in >20% of cases. This is significant because even small uterine lesions have the potential to adversely affect implantation. Hysteroscopy is the traditional method for evaluating the integrity of the uterine cavity in preparation for IVF. It also permits resection of most uterine surface lesions, such as submucous uterine fibroids (myomas), intrauterine adhesions and endometrial or placental polyps. All of these can interfere with implantation by producing a local “inflammatory- type” response similar in nature to that which is caused by an intrauterine contraceptive device. Hysterosonography (syn; HSN/ saline ultrasound examination) and hysteroscopy have all but supplanted HSG to assess the uterine cavity in preparation for IVF. HSN which is less invasive and far less expensive than is than hysteroscopy involves a small amount of a sterile saline solution is injected into the uterine cavity, whereupon a vaginal ultrasound examination is performed to assess the contour of the uterine cavity.

Endometrial Thickness: As far back as in 1989 I first reported on the finding that ultrasound assessment of the late proliferative phase endometrium following ovarian stimulation in preparation for IVF, permits better identification of those candidates who are least likely to conceive. We noted that the ideal thickness of the endometrium at the time of ovulation or egg retrieval is >9 mm and that a thickness of less than 8 mm bodes poorly for a successful outcome following IVF.

Then in 1993, I demonstrated that sildenafil (Viagra) introduced into the vagina prior to hCG administration can improve endometrial growth in many women with poor endometrial development. Viagra’s mechanism of action is improvement in uterine blood flow with improved estrogen delivery…thereby enhancing endometrial development.

Immunologic factors: These also play a role in IVF failure. Some women develop antibodies to components of their own cells. This “autoimmune” process involves the production of antiphospholipid, antithyroid, and/or anti-ovarian antibodies – all of which may be associated with activation of Natural Killer (NK) cells in the uterine lining. Activated NK cells (NKa) release certain cytokines (TH-I) that if present in excess, often damage the trophoblast (the embryo’s root system) resulting in immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). This can manifest as “infertility” or as early miscarriages). In other cases (though less common), the problem is due to “alloimmune” dysfunction. Here the genetic contribution by the male partner renders the embryo “too similar” to the mother. This in turn activates NK cells leading to implantation dysfunction. These IID’s are treated using combinations of medications such as heparin, Clexane, Lovenox, corticosteroids and intralipid (IL).

Share this post:

16 comments

Leave A Reply
  • Judy - January 11, 2017 reply

    First and foremost so wonderful that you take the time to read and answer these questions. This whole process can be very lonely and nerve racking so really wonderful of you to do.

    I am 33 years old and have an AMH level of .3 which I’m told is low ovarian reserve. We’ve never tried to naturally conceive as my husband and I are both carriers of the same form of Batten’s disease. Which means we have a 25% chance of a child effected each pregnancy. We have the juvenile form which onsets at 9 years old. And we have the same sub mutation of our mutation (no we are not related haha I asked the geneticist how that happened and it’s a 1 in a million odds) When we found out in preconception counseling we decided to do IVF with pgd and PGs testing. First round I had 6 follicles but only 3 eggs and none made it far enough for testing. 2nd round had 8 eggs. Three made it to the pgd/pgs phase. Two were normal and one was abnormal (not Batten’s but missing 15th chromosome). I did a FET of one embryo with 8mm lining and it failed. We then did another round of Ivf and got 8 eggs with 5 making it to day 5 and then they stopped so no pgd testing was done. We then did another Fet with the remaining embryo 8mm lining and that resulted in a chemical pregnancy and failed. I’ve spoken with my doctor and nothing is wrong they say with my uterus. I know the lining could be better but they don’t think that’s an issue. When I asked abt a surrogate they said they would still recommend I use my own. We are now on 4th cycle and looks like only 5 follicles. I’m obviously disappointed but trying to figure out what can be done as we may only have 1 more cycle left on insurance. Any advice or guidance would be great.

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - January 12, 2017 reply

    Clearly the issue of transferring Batten’s is important and needs to be addressed through PGS. But this plays a secondary role here where your DOR is central to achieving successful IVF. In my opinion, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation, against the backdrop of age, and ovarian reserve are the drivers of egg quality and egg quality is the most important factor affecting embryo “competency”.
    Women who (regardless of age) have DOR have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production of LH biological activity which can result in excessive LH-induced ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.

    While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the effect of DOR, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can in my opinion, make matters worse. Similarly, the amount/dosage of certain fertility drugs that contain LH/hCG (e.g. Menopur) can have a negative effect on the development of the eggs of older women and those who have DOR and should be limited.I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in women with DOR, favoring instead the use of the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), a modified, long pituitary down-regulation regime, augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend that such women be offered access to embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-selected normal blastocysts, the subsequent selective transfer of which by allowing them to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality might still exist and thereby “make hay while the sun still shines” could significantly enhance the opportunity to achieve a viable pregnancy

    Please visit my new Blog on this very site, http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com, find the “search bar” and type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
    • A Rational Basis for selecting Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) protocols in women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers should be the Standard of Care in IVF
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) versus “Fresh” ET: How to Make the Decision
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
    • Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
    • Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally Abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country–
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
    • Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.
    • IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview

    I invite you to arrange to have a Skype or an in-person consultation with me to discuss your case in detail. If you are interested, please contact Julie Dahan, at:
    Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    OR
    Phone: 702-533-2691
    800-780-7437
    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

  • Meg - December 15, 2016 reply

    Hi Dr. Sher,
    Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to questions. I’m almost out of hope that I will have an IVF cycle that works. I’m 31 and I have tubal infertility. I have a hydrosalpinx in my right tube and had a ruptured ectopic in the left about a year ago. Prior to that, I was pregnant but miscarried the year before my ectopic. I have been through 3 retrievals with 10 PGS tested blasts remaining. I have had 3 FET’s that have been unsuccessful with a lining of 10, an ERA test performed that showed +12 hours pre-receptive, an HSG that showed a uterine filling defect, but HSN that showed the cavity was normal. Is there anything more that could be done to find out why this keeps failing? Having good quality embryos doesn’t seem to be an issue for me, it seems to be more of an implantation issue.
    Thank you for your time,
    Meg

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 15, 2016 reply

    Clearly you have an implantation dysfunction. This MUST in my opinion be fully evaluated before going to your next FET. Most important is to identify whether this is anatomical or immunologic and if the latter, whether it is autoimmune or alloimmune in nature….see below. Also, ou need to be assessed for an hydrosalpinx which if present will need to be addressed surgically in advance of the FET.

    Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
    It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
    1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
    2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
    We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
    3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
    4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
    a. A“ thin uterine lining”
    b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
    c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
    d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
    Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).
    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
    • IVF: How Many Attempts should be considered before Stopping?
    • “Unexplained” Infertility: Often a matter of the Diagnosis Being Overlooked!
    • IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

  • Linda - December 1, 2016 reply

    I am 40 and recently had a failed ivf.. I don’t have any frozen egg. had 7 retrieved , 6 fertilized with ICSI and only 2 made it to day 5 and were transferred but unfortunately, it was negative. my lining was 10 as at the time of transfer. Beta came back with 1,9… my doctor suggested, it could be chromosomal abnormality or immune related and suggest intralipid and IM progesterone in my next cycle. However my partner has a low sperm count and poor motility. Is there anything you can suggest for a positive outcome for my next cycle.
    I am an ardent reader of your blog and post and they have been so helpful. Pls keep it up.
    Thanks

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 1, 2016 reply

    Older women as well as those who (regardless of age) have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) tend to produce fewer and less “competent” eggs, the main reason for reduced IVF success in such cases. The compromised outcome is largely due to the fact that such women tend to have increased LH biological activity which often results in excessive LH-induced ovarian testosterone production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.
    Certain ovarian stimulation regimes either promote excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), augment LH/hCG delivered through additional administration (e.g. high dosage menotropins such as Menopur), or fail to protect against body’s own/self-produced LH (e.g. late antagonist protocols where drugs such as Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron that are first administered 6-7 days after ovarian stimulation has commenced).
    I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in older women and those with DOR, favoring instead the use of a modified, long pituitary down-regulation protocol (the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol-A/ACP) augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend Staggered IVF with embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-normal blastocysts in such cases. This type of approach will in my opinion, optimize the chance of a viable pregnancy per embryo transfer procedure and provide an opportunity to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality still exists, allowing the chance to “make hay while the sun still shines”.
    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the“Conventional” Antagonist Aproach
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
    • Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
    • Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It Should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • Implications of “Empty Follicle Syndrome and “Premature Luteinization”
    • Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com

  • Cici - November 29, 2016 reply

    Thank you Dr. Sher, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I would love to have a consultation with you but I was told you don’t give consultations to people who are currently having treatment with another doctor, which I can understand. We have some frozen embryos left with our clinic in Prague so we are looking ahead to our FET. My lining has always been an issue. I have tried everything you suggest for a thin lining and noting improves it. I had a mock cycle last month with a very low dose stim adding in 2mg of estrofem from CD7 and this gave me my best lining yet of 7.8mm on CD13 (I am usually about 6.5mm by CD13 on estrogen tablets) so we are planning to repeat this for the frozen transfer. I don’t know why but I seem to respond better to a low dose stim. I am back on the same meds at present to do the ERA test (endometrial receptivity assay) so we will see what those results are and also I will be having a laparoscopy in January to check for endometriosis as I have cysts on my ovaries which could be endo. The doctor will be having a proper look at the shape of my womb to see if there is anything that could be affecting blood flow as I have always had lighter periods and I never had a D&C etc so there is no obvious reason for my ‘thin lining’. I really hope these tests give us some answers because after 3 years of IVF, 6 transfers, 4 cancelled transfers due to my lining with no successful pregnancies, I am at the end of the road 🙁 Thank you for all your help and advise so far!

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 29, 2016 reply

    I wish you well! I would consult with you when you are not in-cycle. You can call 702-533-2691 in the meanwhile to set this up.

    Geoff Sher

  • Katja - November 29, 2016 reply

    Dear Dr. Sher,

    I’m 41 years old and first became pregnant easily when I was 38 (2nd UIU attempt) and today have a healthy daughter.

    I have for the past year been trying for a second child. I have been through three UIU attempts where the first attempt led to an almost fatal ectopic pregnancy and surgery (removal of the tube). The following two UIU attempts were negative.

    I then had my first IVF (they took out 17 eggs, inserted a 2nd-day egg and further six eggs developed into 5-days embryos and were frozen). This unfortunately led to a second ectopic pregnancy and following surgery and removal of the 2nd tube.

    I have since been through three failed FET attempts with very good looking 5-days embyos and I’m starting to despair. Seven attempts whereof only two have resulted in pregnancies and those both ectopic. The embryos are able to implant themselves in my tubes but apparently not in my uterus. I’m taking estradiol and progesterone to control my cycle. Despite my age, I have consistently been told that I have very many very good looking eggs, likewise the endometrium thickness always is well above the 9 mm on the day 12 scan and day of embryo transfer.

    Do you have any suggestions on the next steps from here? I still have three 5-days embryos left in the freezer but I do not want to just waste them on trying the same round again if there is something else to be done. I’m scheduled for a hysteroscopy in two days from now but with little hope of finding anything since nothing has appeared on the many ultrasounds.

    I have heard about the ERA test to identify if the embryos are transferred on a wrong day according to my receptivity. Is that something that you would recommend?

    And lastly, I believe that the estradiol and progesterone are messing up my system. For instance, yesterday I had a day three scan to start a new cycle and suddenly my uterus lining was still 6-9 mm thick where is was supposed to be back to paper thin. I have never experienced that before. And consequently I have been instructed to not start up with the estradiol again and will propably miss out on this cycle. Do you think that the hormones can be the ‘bad guys’ here and would it be better to try in a natural cycle?

    Thanks in advance!

    With hope and kind regards,
    Katja

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 29, 2016 reply

    I would need to know a lot more to comment upon your inability to form an adequate uterine lining with FET. Most important be whether the lining was much better with the stimulation cycles and the findings in your upcoming hysteroscopy.

    As far as your recurrent failures and the ectopic pregancy isssue. It is possible that an implantation dysfunction (perhaps immunologic in nature), could lie at the root of the issue…see below:

    Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
    It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
    1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
    2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
    We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
    3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
    4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
    a. A“ thin uterine lining”
    b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
    c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
    d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
    Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).

    I suggest we talk! Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge.andset up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Katja - December 1, 2016 reply

    Many thanks for your reply. I will await the results of the hysteroscopy then, hopefully that will give some answers.

    Kind regards,
    Katja

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 1, 2016 reply

    Good luck Katja!

    Geoff Sher

  • Cici - November 23, 2016 reply

    Hi Dr Sher. Thank you for taking the time to read through all our questions and give us your advice, you are wonderful! I have had numerous transfers of PGS tested embryos resulting in an ectopic pregnancy and a chemical pregnancy (my lining on 4 transfers was just 7mm on the day of progesterone). We are lucky to have some frozen embryos left so I am due to do the ERA (endometrial receptivity test) next month to check the genetic markers of my lining on the day the embryos would be transferred. I know my lining is a major issue but we needed to rule out immune issues also (all of my standard immunes were clear) I had some higher level immune bloods done recently in the RIA lab which you recommend. The results were as follows:
    NK562 Test
    Native State 10.2 – Abnormal NK Cell Activity (>10 abnormal) No stimulation with IL-2 therefore suppression with Intralipid recommended. (there was no suppression with IVIG and mild stimulation with IL-2)

    HLA Panel:
    Me
    DQ Alpha: 1.2, 2.0
    DQ Beta: DQ2, DQ6(1)
    HLA A: A3, A30(19)
    HLA B: B7, B13
    HLA C: Cw6, Cw7
    HLA DR: DR7, DR15(2)
    DRB4 DRB5 present

    Husband
    DQ Alpha: 3.0, 3.0
    DQ Beta: DQ3, DQ3
    HLA A: A2, A2
    HLA B: B27, B44(12)
    HLA C: Cw5, Cw7
    HLA DR: DR4, DR4
    DRB4 present

    Other Tests Completed:
    Karotyping – Normal
    APA – Negative
    ACC IGG – Negative
    Thrombphillia Screen – Negative
    MTHFR – Heterozygous C677T (will be on Clexane)
    Protein C – Negative
    TPO – Normal
    TSH – 2
    Prolactin – ranges between 18 – 23ng/ml (take Dostinex 4 weeks prior to each transfer)
    All other bloods normal (FBC, Vit D etc)
    From what I can see we have 1 partial match on HLA C but I do not know if this is the only match and how significant it is? Also my husband seems to have a lot of the same genetic markers, is this normal? I am also due to have a laproscopy in January to check for endometriosis and we are due to then have another transfer in February so I would love to know if you think intralipids and steroids with Clexane would be enough going forward based on our results? Due to financial reasons beyond our control we will not be having any further fresh cycles so we do not want to waste our frozen embryos. I would love to hear your advice. Thank you!

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 23, 2016 reply

    Honestly, the most important issue here is NOT immunologic, it relates to endometrial thickness. Ideally this needs to be >9mm (but at least 8mm).

    The considerable emotional, physical and financial burden associated with infertility treatment in general and with IVF in specific, demand that factors known to affect outcome be identified and regulated prior to initiating treatment.

    Just as a successful garden needs a ”good” seed properly planted in fertile soil to produce healthy plants, successful embryo implantation requires a good seed (genetically “normal” embryo) and fertile soil (receptive uterine lining) to make a healthy baby. I have long used this “Seed/Soil Relationship” analogy to help clarify the critical nature of the interaction between embryo and endometrium in the successful propagation of pregnancy..

    There have in the last decade been numerous reports suggesting that certain drugs/supplements (e.g. GCSF) and endometrial receptivity testing/preparation might dramatically improve implantation. As yet, none of these have been proven to be effective. This article addresses the influence of the most relevant and important factors that are known to affect .endometrial receptivity and discusses approaches to treatment:

    1. Endometrial thickness
    In 1989, I first demonstrated that in both normal and “hormonally stimulated” cycles, preovulatory endometrial thickness as assessed by ultrasound examination, is partially predictive of embryo implantation (pregnancy) potential following IVF. Ideally the endometrium should measure at least 8.0mm in thickness, (but preferably >9mm).

    A “poor” endometrial lining is most commonly due to: 1) inflammation of the uterine lining (endometritis) that usually occurs as a result of endometritis (inflammation of the uterine lining that can follow a septic delivery, partial retention of the placenta following delivery, abortion or miscarriage, 2) severe adenomyosis (gross invasion of the uterine muscle by endometrial glandular tissue), 3) multiple fibroid tumors of the uterine wall) 4) prenatal exposure to the synthetic hormone, diethylstilbestrol (DES) and, 5) following >3, consecutive, back to back cycles of clomiphene citrate ovulation induction.

    Treatment with vaginal Sildenafil (Viagra): Hitherto, attempts to augment endometrial growth in women with poor endometrial linings by bolstering circulating estrogen blood levels (through the administration of increased doses of fertility drugs, aspirin administration and with supplementary estrogen therapy) have yielded disappointing results.

    In the mid-90’s I first reported on the finding that thee vaginal administration of Viagra for several days prior to the “hCG trigger “ or progesterone administration enhances uterine blood flow and estrogen delivery to the uterine lining and so improves endometrial thickening. Then In October 2002, I reported on the administration of vaginal Viagra to 105 women with repeated IVF failure due to persistently thin endometrial linings. All of the women had experienced at least two (2) prior IVF failures attributed to intractably thin uterine linings. About 70% of these women responded to treatment with Viagra suppositories with a marked improvement in endometrial thickness and 45% of these women achieved live IVF- births following a single cycle of treatment with Viagra. Nine percent (9%) miscarried. None of the women who had failed to achieve an improvement in endometrial thickness following Viagra therapy, subsequently and who underwent embryo transfers achieved viable pregnancies.

    2.Uterine Pathology:
    It has long been suspected that anatomical defects of the uterus might result in infertility.
    While myomas (fibroids) embedded deep in the uterine wall, are unlikely to cause infertility, an association between their presence and infertility has been observed in cases where they distort the uterine cavity, or protrude as submucous polyps through the endometrial lining. It would appear that even small submucous myomas have the potential to prejudice implantation.

    Far too many infertile women found to have a partial or complete septum in the uterus are subjected to surgical excision of the septum with a promise that this will enhance subsequent implantation. This is an erroneous belief. Contrary to popular belief, the presence of a septum that partially or completely partitions the uterine cavity, while being responsible (in some cases) for late miscarriages and premature onset of labor, does NOT cause failed implantation.

    It is likely that most surface lesions in the uterine cavity, whether due to an endometrial, placental or fibroid polyp (no matter how small), or intrauterine adhesions, have the potential to interfere with implantation by producing a local “inflammatory”- type response, not too dissimilar in nature from that which is caused by a foreign body such as a intrauterine contraceptive device. Unfortunately, a dye X-Ray test (hysterosalpingogram/HSG) will often miss many smaller such lesions. The only reliable methods for diagnosing even the smallest of such lesions, is through the performance of a hysterosongram (HSN),a hysteroscopy or an MRI.

    Hysterosonogram (syn. Saline ultrasound): This procedure involves the trans-cervical injection of a physiological saline solution via a catheter, into the uterine cavity. The fluid distended cavity is then examined by vaginal ultrasound for any irregularities that might point to surface lesions such as polyps, fibroid tumors, scarring, or a uterine septum. If performed correctly, the HSN is highly effective in recognizing even the smallest surface lesions that protrude into the uterine cavity. It is less expensive, less traumatic, and diagnostically, equally reliable as hysteroscopy. The only disadvantage lies in the fact that if a lesion is detected, it may require the subsequent performance of hysteroscopic surgical approach to treating the problem..

    Hysteroscopy: Diagnostic hysteroscopy is an office procedure that is performed under intravenous sedation, general or local anesthesia, with minimal discomfort to the patient. The procedure involves the insertion of a thin, lighted, telescope like instrument known as a hysteroscope through the vagina and cervix into the uterus in order to fully examine the uterine cavity. The uterus is first distended with carbon dioxide gas, which is passed through a sleeve adjacent to the hysteroscope. As is the case with FUS, diagnostic hysteroscopy facilitates examination of the inside of the uterus under direct vision for defects that might interfere with implantation.

    We have observed that approximately 8% of candidates for IVF have intrauterine lesions that require attention prior to undergoing IVF in order to optimize the chances of a successful outcome. We strongly recommend that all patients who have such lesions undergo surgery (D&C and/or hysteroscopic resection) to correct the pathology prior to undergoing IVF. Depending on the severity and nature of the pathology, therapeutic hysteroscopy may require general anesthesia. If so, it should be performed in an outpatient surgical facility or in a conventional operating room.

    3. Immunologic factors
    The implantation process begins six or seven days after fertilization of the egg. At this time, specialized embryonic cells (i.e., the trophoblast), which later becomes the placenta; begin growing into the uterine lining. When the trophoblast and the uterine lining meet, they, along with Immune cells in the lining, become involved in a “cross talk” through mutual exchange of hormone-like substances called cytokines. Because of this complex immunologic interplay, the uterus is able to foster the embryo’s successful growth. Thus, from the very earliest stage of implantation the trophoblast establishes a foundation for the future nutritional, hormonal and respiratory interchange between mother and baby. In this manner, the interactive process of implantation is not only central to survival in early pregnancy but also to the quality of life after birth.

    Considering its importance, it is not surprising that failure of proper function of this immunologic interaction during implantation has been implicated as a cause of recurrent miscarriage, late pregnancy fetal loss, IVF failure, and infertility. A partial list of immunologic factors that may be involved in these situations includes anti-phospholipid antibodies (APA), antithyroid antibodies (ATA), and most importantly activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa). Presently, these immunologic markers in the blood can be only adequately measured by a handful of highly specialized reproductive immunology laboratories in the United States. I personally use Reproductive Immunology Associates in Van Nuys, CA or Reprosource in Boston, MA.

    The Central role of Natural Killer cells: After ovulation and during early pregnancy, NK cells comprise more than 70% of the immune cell population of the uterine lining. NK cells produce a variety of local hormones known cytokines. Uncontrolled, excessive release of certain cytokines (i.e. TH-1 cytokines) is highly toxic to the trophoblast (“root system”) of the embryo” leading to their programmed death (apoptosis) and, subsequently to failed or compromised/dysfunctional implantation. In the following situations NK cells become activated, and start to produce an excess of TH-1 cytokines:

    • Autoimmune Implantation Dysfunction: This is most commonly seen in association with a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases such as ith conditions such as Rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism endometriosis and Lupus Erythematosus, Scleroderma, Dermatomyositis etc. It is also encountered in one third of women who have endometriosis (regardless of its severity), and in cases of “unexplained infertility” as well as with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
    • Alloimmune implantation dysfunction where the male and female partners share specific genetic (DQ-alpha and/or HLA) similarities This is commonly seen in cases of RPL and in cases of secondary infertility

    Activated NK cells (NKa) can be detected through the K-562 target cell blood test and (more recently) through uterine biopsy for TH-1 cytokine activity. Treatment involves selective use of Intralipid (IL) or immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy combined with oral steroids, initiated more 10-14 days prior to embryo transfer and in most cases of alloimmune implantation dysfunction, the transfer of a single blastocyst at a time.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Cici - November 23, 2016 reply

    Wow Dr. Sher I knew my lining was a major issue, I didn’t realise it was the most important issue though! I have tried everything under the sun but noting seems to work. I had only 2 transfers where my lining was just over 8mm at progesterone but that didn’t work either however, I was on no immune support at all for those transfers. Do you think I need intralipids for the partial HLA C match? I am hoping and praying that for our next transfer if we can get my lining over 8mm and I am on the correct immune supports we will be successful. Do you think intralipids and steroids would be enough? Thank you for replying also as I know you celebrate Thanksgiving in America tomorrow 🙂

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 24, 2016 reply

    I am not convinced that you have an immunologic implantation dysfunction that would explain your situation. I do not believe the partial HLA[-C match has any significance and the NKa is at most…borderline. And because of this , yes…. I would use IL/steroids prophylactically but I do not believe that this is where youyr problem resides . I think you have an anatomical (endometrial thickness)-related implantation dysfunction.

    Perhaps we should talk.

    Geoff Sher
    PH: 702-533-2691

Ask a question or post a comment